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Routine visits, immunizations down drastically during COVID-19 pandemic: Doctors Manitoba

Click to play video 'Physicians concerned as Manitobans choose to avoid care during COVID-19 second wave' Physicians concerned as Manitobans choose to avoid care during COVID-19 second wave
At the height of Manitoba's second wave, physicians are sounding the alarm over a major decrease in patient visits. As Global's Malika Karim explains, avoiding care can have severe outcomes – Oct 22, 2020

Physicians in Manitoba are worried about ongoing patient care, as staggering statistics during the pandemic show many residents are choosing to miss their regular visits.

Statistics collected by Doctors Manitoba show a 50 per cent decrease in the number of patient visits during the spring of 2020, the first wave of the pandemic. The patient visit data improved a bit over the summer, when COVID-19 numbers were lower in Manitoba, but with a second wave upon us, physicians are again reporting decreases in visits.

Read more: Manitoba reports 4 new coronavirus deaths, 147 cases, Winnipeg schools moving to restricted level

Physicians are concerned that avoiding care can be life threatening.

“There was a patient that had all the signs and symptoms of a heart attack,” recalls Kristjan Thompson, a St. Boniface emergency room doctor. The patient had chest pain that worsened any time he did any sort of activity, and he was really short of breath, Thompson says. “He knew something was wrong, but he was so afraid of COVID that he didn’t tell his partner. He kept it to himself.”

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“After a week of these symptoms, he actually collapsed at home. He went into cardiac arrest.”

The ER team was able to resuscitate the man, but Thompson says the situation could have been prevented with a visit following initial symptoms.

Statistics from Doctors Manitoba also showing decreases in other healthcare areas. The organization reported that immunizations are down for a variety of preventable diseases, some by as much as 40 per cent. This includes immunizations for measles, meningitis, tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough. Appointments and testing with allergy specialists declined by 30 per cent and extended family doctor visits with the elderly dropped more than 20 per cent.

“Whether it’s a new condition or a chronic longstanding condition, these need monitoring and ongoing treatment,” said Dr. Corey Baillie, president of Doctors Manitoba. “Not seeking care today could potentially lead to avoidable complications, emergency room visits, or even an admission to hospital.”

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Manitoba tightens restrictions on schools in Winnipeg Metro, northern regions, in response to rising COVID-19 numbers – Oct 22, 2020

“The COVID-19 pandemic interrupted life on all fronts and immunization is no different, the Manitoba provincial government told Global News when asked about the drop in regular patient visits reported by Doctors Manitoba.

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“With the temporary discontinuation of in-person visits to providers in spring along with school closures, there was a small decline in immunizations indicated in mid-March to mid-April of 2020. More recent data has not yet been analyzed due to the heavy workload the pandemic has caused.”